Stories from many roads

Morning Poem #31: Remember that Song


When you asked about that song we both liked, I immediately knew what you meant, though I had our location slightly off and I don’t remember the song. But I’m happy just remembering that moment.

Henry Molaison had no ability to retain new memories, and I wonder if that meant he enjoyed new music, or if he could never get into it.

It’s also fascinating how we edit memory, and how we use that to deal with stressful situations. I wonder if it’s possible for us to replace the actual song with another and both believe it to be the one we heard.

It’s weird too how music affects the motor cortex, like muscle memory, and I wonder if maybe we shouldn’t try to physically act out the scene when we heard the song.

Of course, I’m sure it would help to hear the song again, or even have a note or two.

Or we can give up and listen to some Christmas songs. And thank our parents for being so nostalgic.

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Water Rights


I’ll be blogging for an upcoming trip to Israel at this site: Legal Right to Water

Here is my latest post, a little reflection on a trip I took to Kazakhstan a few years ago: Water Scarcity in Central Asia

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Snow Day


It’s been cold in New York City since Christmas. In fact, this January made the record books for snowfall. That’s not difficult to see from the streets, especially when every time it snows you work an opening shift.

I haven’t really had any complaints though, outdoors—not having heat in my apartment before and during the blizzard was complaint worthy. But the snow is charming. Despite my snow-centered enthusiasm, the massive dump of snow on December 26 kicked off a month of constant criticism from the rest of the city. The Sanitation Department has been blasted for poor coordination and the Mayor for being aloof. On just the third day of impassable snow throughout the city, Bloomberg even suggested the city was fine since Broadway shows were still filling up.

Although the storm of criticism has yet to settle—especially since snow keeps coming—not everyone has been miserable and cold. The day I spent two hours on my 20-minute commute into work, photog Jackie Snow spent an equal amount of time heading to Coney Island. The result was spectacular; I’ve been looking forward to a day at the beach ever since I saw her photos.

The Christmas Storm left no shortage of artistic inspiration: evidenced by Jamie Stewart’s “Idiot with a Tripod” and this time-lapse gem out of Jersey. But visual art wasn’t the only thing inspired by New York’s big Snowday. The Sanitation Department’s slow response inspired some grand story-telling from City Councilman Daniel J. Halloran, who the Times and all New Yorkers have been watching change his story for the past month. He claimed some Sanitation workers told him that they were told to “take their time” clearing streets to get back at the Mayor’s office for budget cuts. Turns out, it probably didn’t happen. Though they were really slow.

And despite mountains of trash rising from white pastures, the city saw no reason to waste trucks on anything but snow removal. Why haul tons of trash, when you can melt and mash tons of snow with huge trucks?

All the snow covering roads, impeding snowplows, covering cars and forcing mail to go undelivered (what happened to that motto, US Post Office?) wasn’t for naught. As I found out this week while reporting for a local paper in Queens, the Woodhaven Residents Block Association saw networks where others saw snowbanks.

Ed Wendell, president of the WRBA, said that “after the Christmas storm, a lot of people were blasting the city saying, ‘hey we were forgotten.’ We wanted to take a different approach.”

And so he did, organizing Block Captains throughout his neighborhood that could report back to the WRBA, who would pass the information on. Unfortunately, that’s about where it stopped. The WRBA passed on snow conditions all month to two city council members, their local community board and 311 (New York’s 911 for whiners). Then all those people passed the information to the Mayor’s office and Sanitation, as well as each other.

Still, Woodhaven’s streets didn’t get plowed any faster, but Wendell has high hopes.

Queens civic leader Tony Nunziato might have just said it best when I talked to him on Feb. 1.

“Once you don’t do something right, then it spreads.” Nunziato said. “When one thing fails, it just continues.”

As for me, Snowday was one of my favorite weeks in New York so far, including the three hours I spent digging a car out of the two feet of snow on my road. At midnight. On a Tuesday. Two days after our street should have been plowed. Some sanitation workers even pulled up behind us and watched. When we finally got snow dug out from under the car, one of them even helped push.

When snow crashed down again overnight last Wednesday, I was thrilled. I woke up at 5 a.m. giddy with my camera ready. Then I set out in the snow, and I headed to work.

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